Rookhope Pig, image 1
Rookhope Pig: W. Blackett lead piece found near the site of Rookhope Smelt Mill.

Rookhope Pig, image 2
Inside Rookhope Smelt Mill c1910 – Bob Oliver, Jack Lowery and Herbert Lowery at work on the hearth floor. Note the iron pig mould with two wheels and leg.

Rookhope Pig, image 3
This 1884 smelt mill at Lintzgarth Rookhope replaced an earlier 1752 mill which itself replaced the mill at Rispey where the lead pig was probably smelted.

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: On the fells above Rookhope
Current Location: Weardale Museum, Ireshopeburn
Theme: Industrial
Period: Post-medieval
Date: 18th Century AD

What is it?
An 8 stone piece of lead, Marked W BLACKETT, and therefore possibly dating from the time when Sir Walter Blackett was proprietor (1727-77). Probably smelted at the Blackett company’s Rookhope Mill, as it was found on the fell to the north of Rookhope, on the carriage route towards the Blaydon refinery and staithes.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
The mining and refining of lead has a long history in the North Pennines and was a major industry from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Lead refined in the North Pennines during the early part of this period was cast into pigs and transported by trains of Galloway ponies to the Tyne for onward shipping. The pig displayed at the Weardale Museum is prominently stamped ‘W. Blackett’. The Blackett-Beaumont company was the principal operator concerned with lead extraction and smelting in the Weardale, Allenheads and Coalcleugh areas of the North Pennines from the 1650s until the mid-19th Century.

Why is it important?
The lead mining industry was of central importance to the region and its landscape. Thousands of tons of lead were produced annually from the late 18th to mid 19th centuries, carried away from the mills as pieces of lead such as this to be processed further for various uses. A few other similar pieces of lead have been recovered, mainly from shipwrecks, but this is possibly the only known surviving piece of lead remaining in the North Pennines, lost from a carriers pony upon the fell and found by chance by a gamekeeper in the 20th century.

Further Information

    Text References:
  • Turnbull, L 2006 'The History of Lead Mining in the North East of England'
  • Raistrick,A & Roberts,A 1984 'Life and Work of the Northern Lead Miner'

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